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July 17 2024


An archive of Star Trek News

Wolf in the Fold

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at March 24, 2006 - 7:30 PM GMT

See Also: 'Wolf in the Fold' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: While visiting Argelius 2, a planet with a value system based on pacifism and free love, Kirk, McCoy and Scotty visit a nightclub where Scotty is attracted to one of the belly dancers. McCoy suggests that spending some time with her might help Scotty recover from a recent blow to the head accidentally inflicted by a female crew member who caused an explosion, which might have made Scotty resent women. Scotty leaves the club with the dancer, but a few minutes later when Kirk and McCoy come across the couple again, the woman is dead and Scotty is holding the murder weapon, though he remembers nothing.

Argelian prosecutor Hengist wants to arrest Scotty, but Kirk insists on having a medical technician from the Enterprise perform some tests first; minutes later, she is dead as well, with Scotty again the only reasonable suspect. Planetary prefect Jaris suggests that his wife's psychic ability will be able to determine whether Scotty is innocent, but during a ritual in which the empathic Sybo declares that there is monstrous, terrible evil present, the room falls dark and she too is murdered. This time Scotty says that he did not black out but remembers an entity preventing him from reaching Sybo. Using the Enterprise computers to prove Scotty's innocence, Kirk and Spock hypothesize that an ancient entity that traveled from Earth to Rigel IV and then to Argelius is responsible. Hengist, who is from Rigel, refuses to be questioned, and when Kirk attacks him, the entity flees his body, taking over the Enterprise computers. To prevent the crew from feeling fear and feeding the creature that was once Jack the Ripper, McCoy administers tranquilizers to the entire crew while Kirk tricks it into returning to Hengist's body, which he then beams into space.

Analysis: With many original series episodes, I find myself saying that they're even better than I remembered despite having seen them dozens of times. In the case of "Wolf in the Fold", I'm sorry to report that the episode has not held up nearly so well for me. It isn't boring, and it has its moments of wit and character development, but between the number of corpses and the incredibly bizarre psychology practiced by McCoy on Scotty - not to mention all the discussions by male officers of finding some nice Argelian babes to relax with - it's really not my thing. Murder mysteries in which women are portrayed as helpless victims (this entity preys on women "because women are more easily and more deeply terrified") while both predators and cops are strong male types can hardly be called rare, but it's still disappointing to see that formula on a show as progressive as Star Trek, even if it has the innovative twist of an alien being responsible for the killings.

Apparently you know you're on a backward world when the decor and costumes are vaguely Middle Eastern, even though Argelius is supposedly also renowned for its tranquility - which we do see in evidence, as Jaris hardly seems to blink when his wife is murdered in the room with him, though the fiancé of the slain belly dancer is afflicted with jealousy, which her father finds unreasonable and repugnant. The set decoration is very nice, particularly Jaris and Sybo's home, with its elevated fire pit and quasi-Ottoman-style pillows and carvings. But there's weirdness from the very beginning with McCoy's belief that an accident in engineering has caused Scotty's "total resentment toward women" - why didn't he worry a few episodes back that Apollo's deliberate attack would have caused total resentment toward men, or Nomad's death-and-resurrection would have caused total resentment toward machines? This is all setting up an excuse to relegate females to the role of objects lusted after by men like Kirk and McCoy, who are hoping to go visit a club across town "where the women are so..." that the sentence can't be completed on network television, or preyed upon by the unknown murderer in a scenario in which we're supposed to feel sorry for Scotty rather than the dead women because we're supposed to presume that he's not guilty.

The female characters have no agency at all. The dancer puts on a show, agrees to step out with Scotty, is murdered and then discussed in a proprietary manner by both her father and fiancé, the latter of whom suggests that she was something of a slut. The medical technician from the Enterprise is, of course, someone we have never seen before, and we have no glimpse of her competence as an officer before she is dispatched with dozens of holes stabbed in her uniform. Sybo seems most notable for her ability to stand absolutely still; she's supposed to be meditating in preparation for empathically reaching out to the murderer, but her lack of response to learning that an alien woman has been killed in her home is rather chilling. During the ceremony she becomes hysterical, but since her words are the mumbo-jumbo of alien names and blurted emotions rather than anything practical, it's Spock's logic and the ship's computer that get credit for solving the mystery, not her unique skills. And, of course, she ends up dead too, while the only other woman we see, a technician during the "lie detector" sequence, seems to be in the room just for Hengist to grab and threaten when the entity returns to his body. Uhura is absent for the entire episode, even on the bridge, which is probably for the best.

As murder mysteries go, it's an interesting exploration of how technology and logic can go a long way toward resolving even the most implausible of suspects; within a matter of minutes, Kirk and Spock have gone from speculating on whether there could be an entity Sybo would have perceived as "absolute evil" to analyzing the possible path of that entity past the planets on which it took on different murderous names. No one ever stops to suggest that maybe Sybo or someone else in the room had an interest in reading about mass murderers and that's why she spoke all those names, rather than because of an actual entity; it's very odd as well that no one tries to look for traces of the thing that Scotty says blocked him from reaching Sybo at the moment she was killed. The procedural aspects have some of the predictable human drama with the father and potential son-in-law expressing mutual hostility, and Scotty is rather touching trying to defend himself on the witness stand while having to concede that he remembers nothing at critical moments.

This is years before CSI, so the lack of forensics is a little disappointing (even if Scotty's were the only fingerprints on the knife, I'd expect the tricorder to register that the knife did not come from Argelius but was made on another planet, and wouldn't there have been some sort of cellular residue suspected even if they couldn't test for it? Even so, Spock proves unusually willing to accept intuitive choices rather than settling for the obvious conclusion that Scotty is guilty, despite the fact that McCoy seems determined to characterize the engineer as a misogynist and Spock's own initial skepticism about the empathic ceremony. It's never explained how Kesla/Redjac/Jack the Ripper made Scotty black out and forget what happened during the first two murders -- if those were trauma-induced amnesia, I'm a little worried they sent him right back to work -- and of course there are no long-term psychological repercussions on anyone, as Jaris seems to feel the death of his wife may have been worthwhile to have exposed Hengist and Kirk is all set to go back to the planet to check out the babes again if only Spock would agree to be his companion.

What did I get out of "Wolf in the Fold"? Strong evidence that Aberdeen is right in insisting that Scotty hails from there, rather than Elgin or Linlithgow. That and Kirk's passionate loyalty to his crew are about all I really want to remember.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.

Michelle Erica Green is a news writer for the Trek Nation. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.

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